Desert Designs

Written by Darren Elms


T
he paintings and pencil drawings of Mark McDowell offer a window into a storied life that includes a stint in a traveling circus as a young man. There are beautiful acrobats balancing on horses, floating instruments, vehicles in motion … all rendered in vibrant color palettes and affable sincerity.

For much of his 30 years as a frequently exhibited and published artist, Mark has enjoyed a prominent residence at Cattle Track Arts & Preservation. It’s a literal residence if you count his home, also located on the property. Opened in 1936, the compound serves as a haven for creatives—including artists, jewelers, potters, blacksmiths, printers and performers–to craft their works in an environment that prizes collaboration and creativity.

When Mark moved to Scottsdale a few decades ago, the landscape of his adopted city was more desert than development. Over a beer at a local bar where a trio of buddies (first-class acts who performed with the likes of Glen Campbell and Bruce Springsteen) plays for an enthusiastic clientele, he laments the physical changes to the area—a smattering of new homes and resorts that often overwhelm the serenity of the Camelback Mountain neighborhoods. But there are exceptions.

When the Andaz announced it would take over an outdated resort only a few blocks from the Cattle Track compound, Mark and his fellow artists might have raised a weary eyebrow at the specter of more unsightly alterations. Instead the Andaz honored the low-profile setup of the previous resort and even formed a mutually beneficial partnership with its new neighbors.

Alongside a design team hired to bring modernity into the existing structures and expansive grounds, Mark was employed by Andaz to breathe some mid-century whimsy into the ambience. His curated assemblage includes sculptures by Jonathan Adler, folk art by Alexander Girard and a prominent display of Cattle Track originals and reprints throughout the rooms and common areas. Even the colorful mugs waiting on the breakfast table are handmade by local ceramic artist Mary Van Dusen.

The blueprint of the new Andaz is nearly identical to the Cottonwood Suites it replaces. Rather than build up, the hotel preserved the 201 one-story bungalows scattered around the property to preserve the stunning views of Camelback Mountain. The overall aesthetic takes cues from the era of Eames with its mod furniture choices, wood accents and colorful palette. In fact, each bungalow is marked with its own signature hue, taken from the traditional color wheel of the local Zuni tribe.

The wall-to-wall glass of the lobby and adjoining restaurant brings the outdoors in for an immersive experience. Chef Adam Sheff’s kitchen functions in full view of his guests as he makes creative dishes to rival the artistic inspirations of his venue. These include small-plate and shareable dishes that draw influence from the Sonoran desert, local specialties and Chef Adam’s Middle Eastern background. Joined with a craft cocktail or glass of wine, you’re in for a real treat.

When you’re not taking advantage of the spa, pool or fitness center located on property, the Andaz encourages you to explore the Paradise Valley it calls home. This includes visits to the Cattle Track Arts Compound, where Mark will gladly give you the VIP tour.

For more on Andaz Scottsdale, visit scottsdale.andaz.hyatt.com. To learn more about Cattle Track Arts Compound and their resident artists, visit cattletrack.org. 

Scottsdale Tipster:

• Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is less than 30 minutes from Scottsdale in good traffic. If you don’t drive from LA to
AZ (less than six hours), we suggest renting a car to help get around.

• Scottsdale can be a scorcher in the summer months. Plan your visit in the spring when temperatures are manageable, or fall and winter when less crowded.

• There’s plenty to explore in Scottsdale, including shopping at Scottsdale Fashion Square, brunch at the beautiful patio of historical El Chorro, hiking Camelback Mountain or an architectural tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West.